Busy Bodies Need to Rest

By Dr Paula Barrett

When your child wakes up in the morning, the noise starts.

The alarm goes off and the radio goes on. There’s breakfast television, car radios, peak hour traffic, construction sites and mobile phones ringing. Soon, teachers are talking, schoolmates are squealing, keyboards are tapping and bells are peeling.

It’s a lot of stimulation. So it’s no wonder some children find it difficult to be calm or concentrate. for long periods of time. And it’s hardly surprising many children become agitated or anxious.

That’s why rest is so important in the daily routine. A little peace and quiet gives the child’s mind and body time to recover and recharge.

For a start, don’t expect your child to start their homework when they first get home from school. They’ll need at least an hour to eat, relax and calm down. They’ll be more productive and will make fewer mistakes when they’re not overtired.

It’s also not a great idea to take your child to a shopping centre after school. If your car is overheating you wouldn’t speed down the highway. You would pull over, add some water and wait until it cools down before you take off again. You need to do the same thing with children. Let them refuel before they start up again!

Once they’re home from school, there are plenty of ways for a child to relax that doesn’t involve a TV or a computer.

Encourage your child to engage in the kinds of activities that are self-soothing. This could be reading a book, running or walking. Perhaps they could try cooking, looking after a garden, playing a musical instrument or cuddling a pet. Water is also soothing, so a relaxing bath or shower or a swim is a good idea.

Simple relaxation activities also include slow, deep breathing from the stomach, simple muscle relaxation or even just spending a few minutes thinking about a special or happy place.

When a child is feeling very intense emotions, they may need to calm themselves down. Any of the activities discussed can help them deal with those emotions and prevent them reacting badly and may stop them hurting themselves or others.

If children are encouraged to build in periods of quiet time without iPods or mobile phones, they’ll soon choose to do so. Because as parents, if you place importance and value in this, so will your children.

Professor Paula Barrett is (…) the author of FRIENDS FOR LIFE, a schools-based anxiety prevention and treatment program for children and youth. (…)

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